Saturday, January 12, 2019

Driving with Mal

"What was that?," Mal asks. It's hard to hear over the roar of the motor.

"I said, 'I want to word my model,'" I say.

"Well, that's fine, if you know what the words are supposed to sound like; otherwise, you're scraping at air," he says.

"It's not the words that I can't make out," I say. "It's the rhythm of the pauses that confuses me."

"Then we're just the opposite," Mal says. "Knowing when not to speak always suited my tastes, a hundred times over."

"I'm not sure of where I'm going," I finally manage to say. "I don't really have anywhere to go. The motel pushed me out at noon."

"I'll take you somewhere," Mal says. "Somewhere I'll take you."

"Should I ask where that somewhere might be?" I ask.

"You should not ask that someone who is me," Mal says. "Rhyming is always fun though."

This makes me more nervous than I already am. Mal is cheerful enough, despite the sarcasm that underlies most of what he says. I don't trust him or not trust him. I put my life in his hands as one would trust in a god, an able man with few words and an easy three-letter name. The road is endless. Every so often we pull over, and he buys me coffee or a snack. We sit at a table and watch each other without speaking. Sometimes he seems on the verge of saying something but then stops himself.

"So what happened with your wife?," I ask him in a casual way. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."

"No, not that I don't want to tell ... Said I was a lazy bastard who didn't pull his weight in the company. The company, mind you, is a not-for-profit, free-for-all -- except for me -- smorgasbord. 'You were the ears, and that's it,' she told me, 'and I was the body that housed you.' Poetic in a way but hardly the kind of farewell one expects from his spouse. Couldn't have meant that much to her, to keep me in her clutches. I'm not going anywhere in the same way as you," he says to me.

"Is there any place you're driving?" I ask Mal. I ask him again, "Do you think there's somewhere we might be able to stop?"

"Soon," he begins and then trails off.

"Was there something more?" I ask.

"Soon we'll be stopping somewhere, and that's it," Mal says.

Car dealerships and shopping centers become scarcer. The lanes of the road narrow. Instead of traffic lights there are stop signs now. Mobile homes fill intermittent patches of land; otherwise, there are only signs for a vista up ahead. 

The mountains are higher than I've ever seen. As we make our way around the curves, vertigo sets in. The mountains are a wall compressing me into a flat sheet of flesh against the vinyl seat. My chest is on my spine. Sometimes I don't breathe for a second or two. The signs say the speed limit is 25 miles per hour, but Mal goes faster. I didn't know I had a fear of heights. The shock of the pressure chokes me.

"Doing okay over there?" Mal asks me, and this time I don't answer. I only touch his hand on the wheel and grip it for a second. "Sure, you're doing okay," he says. "These hills won't get ya'."

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Pisstone and Bucci, continued

Pisstone: We found something in her purse that we think you’ll like, a note, plain and simple; just the first few words’ll give you a taste for what follows.

Bucci: Read ‘em to me, Pisstone.

Pisstone “You’ll find death inside my pussy and this death will rot your brain, a contagious form of erasure unable to be contained.”

Bucci: Right there, we’ve got her: “unable to be contained.” We’ll see about that. Go on.

Pisstone: “The bullets fly right in you, and I’m ripping off your ears. Your ears are gun – uh, gone. But that’s not violent enough for you. You want Tarantino-style theatrics, some gasoline poured on your head. You want me dancing while I do it, a Salome at her feast. So I dance then, picking up my feet in a ragtime rhythm, lifting my arms in a zombie trance.”

Bucci: Dumb bitch.

Pisstone: Should I mark it as evidence?

Bucci: Slam her. Oh, and who’d she write that shit for?

Pisstone: Don’t know. No names, just a couple paragraphs. Sounds like a letter. Val thinks she wrote it for us.

Bucci: Yeah, and what the fuck do we want with it?”

Pisstone: You wanted it marked as evidence.

Bucci: But not if that’s her intent. There’s got to be flea in the coat somewhere. Shred it.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

There's a Hole in the Blanket, Dear Liza, There's a Hole. ...

There's a Hole in the Blanket, Dear Liza, There's a Hole. ...

"There's nothing worse than cold, damp hands. Nothing good comes from them," the gritty man says. 

"It's a sign that you're in the wrong place, just between you and me."

"Then where do I go?" Liza asks, covering the lower half of her body with a blanket.

"There are a thousand questions to ask before we answer that one. But it purifies the soul to fuck like this. It purifies it to fuck."

"What's 'it'?" Liza asks.

"It's nothing," the gritty man says, fondling her breasts. "There's a fork in the road, dear Liza, dear Liza, a fork. There is a fork in the fucking, dear Liza, a fork. It's fucking that purifies the soul, and death that wipes the slate clean."

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Pisstone and Bucci

Pisstone and Bucci

Pisstone:  Look, Booch, she's had no one to talk to but me until now. She calls her time in Tucson her 'velvet years,' and I think she's gearing up for the 'cusp o' fame' on her damned chronology. I said 'a poly-cotton blend' would be next, but that's split when we cap it. You've got to know what I'm saying. If word gets out that she made money like she did, they'll fry her nice and crisp, then give her corpse to some lackey who plugged her holes up with the cotton. You'll see; the plugs'll pop right out of her, you'll see. You'll see what I'm saying, and then it will be too late. They'll plug her with cotton, and not for no Aunt Flo.

Bucci:  So what are you saying? That we tiptoe around the evidence?

Pisstone:  I'm just saying that we withhold the bit about how she made her money. No one needs to know. You gonna' say something?

Bucci:  Me? Hell, no. What the fuck do I care? Split when you cap it. Damn, you've got a fucking abscess in your jaw. Careful when you bite down. Joe, there's a pit in your cherry.

Pisstone:  A pit, huh? You're a fucking pit, you know that? You're a plague on thought itself, just thinking about you. Here's to you, dumb pimp, here's to you.

Bucci:  You're a goddamn idiot. You think because you feel some sympathy for once in your rotten life that it makes you better than me? You think you're going to shock me into agreeing with you because of some references to our gal in cotton? Yeah, I'm going along with you, but not for the reasons you'd have me give.

Pisstone:  I don't even want to know your reasons. Nothing you say means anything. Isn't that how it goes?

Bucci:  Find something better to sidetrack me from the truth.

Pisstone:  The truth? The truth. The truth about what? About why you're in this with me?

Bucci:  I'm not with you. I could cap your fucking split with my dick.

Pisstone:  I bet you'd like that, to get yourself inside me like we want to be in her. I know you've got a thing for me.

Bucci:  I'd fuck you.

Pisstone:  So what's stopping you?

Bucci:  I'm trying now. Can't you tell?

Pisstone:  In a rhetorical way, but nothing's pressing in your pants.



I sit midway between the shore and the cabanas, on a towel, next to an older woman who could be my grandmother. We both wear loose gauze jackets in white, with more of this fabric draped around our necks and wrapping across our mouths. My lips, painted red with lipstick, cling to the material, and the other woman says they look bloodied.

     -- There. If you hold the stone in your hand, you can see what bleeds about you.

She hands me an object that glints in the sun like a small, lacquered rock.

     -- You can see what bleeds about you.

She smiles at me and gazes toward the horizon.

     -- We're filled with blood and stones.

She continues smiling, now with a blank look in her eyes. They water, but meaninglessly, as though she forgot to blink.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Girl in the Water

There is a wood dock by the prison where people hand-pull minnows from the water. The water is translucent. When I swim underwater I see a girl I knew from my past, someone I once thought was pretty and didn't jump in the river. Whether the girl is there or not is something beyond the scope of my vision; I only see that when she floats past she looks dead. I get out of the water quickly. The minnows, piled on a plank left near a stepladder, vary:  some are long and silvery; others, small and round. When I pick some up they slip out of my hand and go into the water, flapping back to life as they fall through the surface. When I grip their slippery tails they remind me of cockroaches. I'm glad I can't collect them. There is an undersea operations unit with men who calibrate where a foot once was, who gauge whether the person kicked, and where they went to the bathroom. It's the only way to find people. I report the girl I thought was dead. A calibrator locates her footprint, a measurement of her movement over time, and the changes in the water caused by her fluttering. I feel safe to go back in the river. But then she's behind me, laughing at my reaction, exaggerated and very much alive. I want to hold her and stroke her hair.